Outdoor activities abound in Central Oregon. Hiking and kayaking are two of our favorites and there are lots of opportunities to do both here. Since our visit last in August, we have wanted to come back here and do more exploring and also catch up with our friends Jim and Jan. They love the greater Bend area and they shared some of the best hiking and kayaking spots with us.
The Cascade mountain range delineates and defines this part of the state. It is such a treat to see the snow-capped mountains every day. From our campsite, we could see the Three Sisters and Mt. Washington. In addition, as we traveled through the area, we were also graced with views of Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and Broken Top. What scenic and majestic views they afford.
One day, we drove the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. We, along with Jim and Jan, loaded up our kayaks and headed for the mountains. The 66-mile scenic highway is just east of the Cascade range. Due to the series of alpine lakes and reservoirs along the upper Deschutes River, the byway became known as Cascade Lakes. Many of these bodies of water are great places to kayak.
We chose to kayak the Crane Prairie Reservoir which is at the south end of the Scenic Byway. Named for the cranes that inhabit this area, this man-made lake is also a favorite with fishermen. It is the location of one of Oregon’s largest rainbow trout fisheries. Although we did not see any cranes while we kayaked, we did spot 2 bald eagles, 3 osprey, and a heron along with a lot of cormorants. We had a spectacular day on the water. There was no wind, few clouds, a minimal number of boaters, and the water was like glass much of the time. Seeing the birds, the blue skies, the lovely mountains, and being with great friends made for a memorable experience.
After kayaking, we drove the scenic byway stopping by several of the alpine lakes. This drive was a real treat since much of the road is closed from November through May due to snow. There are 12 lakes and 2 reservoirs scattered along the route. We did not see them all but we did see the Lava Lakes, Todd Lake, Coltus Lake, Devils Lake, Hosmer Lake, and Elk Lake. Each one was unique and they had clear, deep blue colored water. If there was no wind, you could often see Mt. Bachelor or South Sister reflected in the lake.
We saw the largest number of people when we stopped at the Elk Lake Resort. I think it had something to do with the fact that they serve ice cream there (July is National Ice Cream month, you see). Also, this lake is large and deep enough to boast a marina that has large sailboats. While we ate our ice cream in the warm afternoon sun, we had a great view of the lake, the sailboats gliding across the lake, and both Mt. Bachelor and South Sister. (What more could you possibly ask for?)
The northern end of the byway passes by the base of Mt. Bachelor so you get to see it up close. There is a popular ski resort there that is the 2nd largest single mountain ski resort in the U. S. after Vail. People come here to ski from November through May. Even though it is summer, there were ski slopes areas marking the face of the mountain.
We were so happy to get to see some many of the Cascade Lakes and reservoirs. Kayaking on one of them was a real treat.
The Deschutes River is another defining feature of Central Oregon. It starts at Little Lava Lake at the foot of the Cascades and flows north to the Columbia River. David and I were thrilled when Jim and Jan suggested that we kayak down part of the Deschutes River. They chose the perfect place to go, a section of the river south of Bend near La Pine State Park where the river is broad and tranquil. We paddled 9.4 miles of the river as it snaked its way north toward Bend. This time we did not spot any bald eagles, just some geese, but the river itself was beautiful as it flowed downstream. It was another lovely day on the water.
We got to see the Deschutes River from above and from its banks on two hikes. The first hike was in Riley Ranch Nature Reserve, near Tumalo State Park. This hike took us along the rock cliffs overlooking the river canyon. You could hear the roar of the water rushing over the rocky river bed below. From this vantage point, you could also see the Cascade range in the distance.
We also hiked the Eagle Crest River Walk outside of Redmond. It is a short hike that follows the river for a couple of miles. The water is calm and we saw fly fishermen there and also a few people swimming and wading in the river’s cool waters.
We had a great time in the Bend area. It is quickly becoming one of our favorite parts of Oregon. We filled our days with fun outdoor activities. Many thanks to Jim and Jan for their kindness, friendship, hospitality, and for creating some wonderful memories with us.